Customer data is a powerful resource that can be shared across corporate departments to improve operational efficiency and sales effectiveness. With convenient access to actionable data, salespeople can build strong relationships with customers by leveraging the latest information from ERP and support systems, customer satisfaction surveys, product shipments, and payment histories.

However, making CRM an enterprise portal is not easy. It requires integrating systems and processes across all departments. Like most large and complex projects there are many challenges, including defining common priorities for departments with conflicting priorities and moving data across different technical environments including legacy systems, mobile apps, and public and private cloud architectures.

These five strategies can help enhance your users’ CRM portal experience and avoid pitfalls with your implementation:

  1. See the big picture.  In order to ensure smooth and seamless data sharing you need to define an infrastructure that can profile, cleanse, parse, and standardize information across disparate data sources, applications, systems, and platforms. Visualize automated flows of information from CRM to ERP, call center, e-commerce, and other enterprise systems to ensure a full and complete view of customer histories, orders, credit status, service issues, and more. Include valuable structured and unstructured data from the customer’s complete digital world: e-commerce interactions, social media comments, Web site visits, email and messaging interactions, etc. Newsfeeds or social status feeds such as Salesforce Chatter can also provide a corporate social dimension to the CRM portal experience.
  2. Make mobile a priority. Mobile is where all these technologies intersect, providing an important tool for increased operational efficiencies, improved employee productivity, improved customer and partner satisfaction and innovation. Make mobile part of your strategy, including providing direct self-service customer access via smart phones, laptops, and tablets wherever possible. Using innovative technologies is another way to build customer loyalty and brand value. In addition to experiencing increased efficiencies, companies that adopt mobile technologies are less likely to be left behind by a more mobile-astute competitor.
  3. “Show me the money.” Keep the project focused on revenue optimization and let this priority drive project objectives; work toward renewals and repeat business, service low-profit customers more cost effectively, etc. Include information and KPIs from multiple systems into a common portal dashboard. Automate processes across systems, Lead to Cash or Service Call to Invoice for example, with a single portal view and actionable workflows that can automatically update multiple systems in the background.
  4. Listen to the voice of the customer and the voice of the process. The real purpose of CRM is to improve business performance by enhancing customer experiences. Listen to what your customers and internal stakeholders are saying before setting up CRM portal processes. Employee involvement can be encouraged by using an informal “water cooler” approach where users are invited to identify the most important data and processes that can help them provide the best service and work more efficiently. Web Parts can mash up Web interaction such as shipment tracking, maps, and weather reports within the user’s current view, alongside internal data from multiple back office systems, providing users with everything they need in order to complete day to day tasks from a single view. This increases time efficiency and data integrity across systems. Getting employees involved early and often increases the chances for smooth adoption of your new portal and positions IT as a business driver.Remember, not all portal views are or should be equal. The Application Programming Interface enables integration platforms or point-to-point programs to bring relevant data from customers, social sites, and other enterprise systems so individual users can receive the information that need to make a decision and act on the behalf of the customer.
  5. Make dashboards “actionable.” Make sure users can write to records and not just view them. While access to accurate up-to-date information is undeniably a critical requirement for any business, enabling that information to be used, manipulated and acted upon is fundamental to business success. If people feel that they can get real work done, it increases enthusiasm for the system and increases its impact on improving customer service and productivity.In addition to data that can be entered, modified or viewed, make sure to provide management and users with dashboards and reports that important information and key performance indicators quickly and easily understood.An optimized CRM experience is dependent on knowing how customer information can be leveraged to create a positive experience for your customers and users. Creating a portal experience requires an attitude shift that gives a CRM implementation true portal status. You know you’ve won the user adoption and portal challenge when your CRM system becomes the first and last application checked by your users every day.

Dave AkkaDavid Akka M.Sc, MBA, is the Managing Director of Magic Software Enterprises (UK) Ltd. A self-described “recovering techie”, David has previously worked in project management, professional services and CTO roles and is considered one of Magic’s leading authorities on Cloud computing, SOA methodologies, Big Data and enterprise mobility.

David holds an M.Sc in Computer Science and a Masters in Business Administration (with merit) specialising in Sales and Marketing, from Manchester Business School.

In his time as Managing Director of Magic Software UK, David has met with a wide range of CEOs, CFOs, CTOs across a wide range of companies as well as many ecosystem partners. Identifying the best-matched solution to their organisations has given him a unique perspective on the enterprise mobility and integration markets and the rise of consumerisation of IT and Big Data, which could be characterised as “IT 2.0”.

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